I was wary going into this book for a few reasons:
- I’d heard a lot of complaints about the end.
- Ruth Ware in general is hit or miss for me.
- I’d heard that this is a retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, which I’ve read twice, still can’t remember a thing about, and found excruciatingly boring and forgettable after both reads.
Still, I was determined to read, and so I began. Immediately, I was a bit put off by the fact that this novel is basically meant to be the narrator’s letter to a lawyer. I don’t like novels that are in letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, text conversations, interviews, etc. And of course, since all but the first and last few pages of this 336-page book make up a single “letter,” mostly told in regular prose but with occasional breaks to plead with the lawyer, it’s not in the least bit believable. However, since I’d learned ahead of time that this was a retelling of a classic, and I already knew this was a frequent technique used in that style of classic, I decided to ignore my annoyance and keep going.
What follows is a fascinating story. I do admit, the jacket description is a bit misleading (the whole “left alone for weeks at a time” when the main story takes place over less than a week. But mostly, it was a fun mystery to unravel. Then you get to the end, the part everyone complains about. My thoughts, no spoilers:
- I wasn’t so bothered by the ending, because like the unbelievable letter format, many classics end with this exact same style.
- However, I feel that part of the end is a bit of a cop-out. One reason I dislike letter/diary/etc formats is that it’s hard to get the full story. Once the letter is done, you never find out what happens afterwards. So Ware circumvented this by adding a little extra. I would have preferred the end to remain ambiguous, or to never have had the letter format in the first place.
- On the other hand, I can see exactly why Ware chose to add the last little bit, and I did appreciate having answers, even if I think the story would have been more interesting with that final ambiguity.
Honestly, I don’t remember The Turn of the Screw well enough to know if this bookwas a good adaptation. My vague recollections tell me it didn’t read as a whole story, just as pieces that don’t go anywhere or add up to anything. And either way, The Turn of the Key was on balance a much better book, in my opinion. It was flawed, but definitely memorable and spooky and a fun read.